Potpourri of African colours and sound

2013-01-27 10:00

Learning about other cultures on the continent is a welcome spin-off

Durban has been the toast of the Africa Cup of Nations, with all the Moses Mabhida Stadium matches sold out.

This is probably because the home team, Bafana Bafana, are based here, so the support has been awesome.

Except for a few foreign supporters, mostly Angolans, the stadium belonged to South Africans of all colours.

Vusi Mazibuko, head of Durban Host City, said he was not surprised by the turnout as Durban always embraced Bafana.

However, he warned supporters to come early for today’s game.

“We have had the challenge of supporters arriving late, which resulted in long queues and we are appealing to them to come early to give the team the boost they need,” said Mazibuko.

Popular Kaizer Chiefs supporter Masilo Machaka and others from PSL teams have been campaigning to get fans behind the teams.

Machaka said they had been in Durban the whole week to promote a spirit of togetherness and on Wednesday met Angolan supporters to forge relations.

“We are saying one nation, one continent, and that is the spirit we want to see prevailing,” he said.

Despite a relatively low turnout at Nelson Mandela Stadium, the fans there created an electric atmosphere that belied the poor attendances at all four Group B matches at the iconic arena this week.

The Ghana supporters have been arguably the most colourful, eccentric and artistic, closely challenged by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) contingent, with their trademark sky-blue uniform complete with a diagonal red stripe.

The Ghana bunch is led by a colourful character who carries a clay pot on his head with smoke blowing from it for the whole of the match. Next to him is always a woman with a tall hat that stands out like a landmark, both strategically positioned in the middle of a group of about 5 000 clad in the red, yellow and green colours of the national flag.

DRC supporters employ an African shaman whose drumbeat rallies supporters behind coach Claude Le Roy’s troops.

“Africa is about art, and that’s why you see some of the fans with body paint and colourful uniforms,” said Michael Owusu, a member of the national supporters’ union based in Accra. “We are also proud of our tradition wherever we go.”

The tournament has also proved a learning experience for the youth of Moruleng, in Rustenburg.

School kids in the area had the opportunity of a lifetime this week when Togolese fans taught them about their culture and the importance of knowing about their background.

Togo supporter Fred Chikwa was excited to be among the volunteers who ensured the kids had a wonderful experience.

He said: “I enjoyed talking to the kids about our culture and the importance of singing our national anthem to honour the players. We have been singing beautiful songs to motivate our players and show the youth that unity is important to progress.”

The children also had the chance to take pictures with Togolese players, including captain and Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

There is friendly banter in Group C matches at Mbombela between Ethiopia and Nigeria over who elicits the most lively atmosphere in the city.

One particular restaurant in town is marked in the dominant red and yellow colours of the Ethiopian flag.

His neighbour across the road is Nigerian. His place is proudly green and white, and beer will flow there once the Super Eagles start flying.

Even in the searing heat, supporters sport scarves in the colours of their favourite teams.

The east African whistles and the pounding drums from the western side of the continent make for an exciting soccer carnival.

And Ethiopia have won many hearts despite the missile-throwing incident in their 1-1 draw with African champions Zambia on Monday, which led to their Football Association being fined.

There is no pressure to impress in this Afcon, as Ethiopia fans enjoy the big continental stage for the first time since 1982.

Even more spectators are expected to come and support the Walias in a competition where they’ve shown signs of mixing it with the continent’s best.

– Additional reporting Sisa Majola and Maxwell Ramaru

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